I belong to a wine tasting meetup group (meetup.com is an awesome site that brings people in your area with similar interests and/or tastes together). While I haven’t been as active as I should be, I still frequent the group page. Early December, I saw a posting for an alcohol-free January. Basically, purge your body of alcohol the month after arguably the heaviest 6 week drinking period of the year for those not living in New Orleans. I discovered that this was not unique to my meetup group. Quite a few people abstain from alcohol in January. In fact, I borrowed the term “Drynuary” from this Slate article.
After contemplating over several glasses of wine, I decided to give it a try. There were a multitude of minor reasons why:
I, like 99% of Americans, traditionally kick off the New Year by dieting. Drinking while dieting can cause various setbacks. Drinking any beer but Coors/Bud light brings in sneaky calories; especially yummy craft beers. In addition, after a few drinks, my resistance to pizza and buffalo wings lowers considerably.
We all know that after a night of heavy drinking, you’re probably going to pay for it the next day. I was curious if abstaining from alcohol would improve how I felt on a day-to-day basis.
Make sure I’m not a secret alcoholic
I won’t lie. I like drinking. Even though I truly enjoy the taste of beer and wine, I like the buzz I get from it. Very rarely do I drink with intention of getting hammered, but I tend to lose track of how much I am drinking, especially at home. I’m pretty frugal when I shop (ask my wife), so a 30 pack of beer is considerably cheaper per once than a six-pack. When I’m out, I usually have to go through many more obstacles for each drink (bartender, triple the cost, settling the bill, drinking responsibly). At home it’s easy to grab one (or have somebody “sensuous” one), cost isn’t an issue, and you don’t have to worry about getting home.
I also enjoy a few drinks after a rough day. The phrase “you look like you need a drink” exists for a reason. Sometimes it is a little too easy to “justfy” a drink, especially when you have the previously mentioned 30-pack sitting in your fridge. I wanted to see if removing alcohol as an option would affect anything.
|Winter Lager goodness|
My Drynuary began promptly at midnight on New Years (or New Years morning if you want to be technical). I made sure to purge the house of any beers or open bottles of wine, save for the hard liquor (easy to resist for me) and a single bottle of Sam Adams Winter Lager that would be my first drink when it was over. Okay, I really just forgot about it because it was stuffed in the back of the fridge behind a salad, but I’m sure I subconsciously left it there for this reason.
The month started pretty easy because were busy and the Broncos had a first round bye, so I didn’t care about football that weekend (more on that later). There was a momentary lapse when I was waiting in line at to purchase snow tubing tickets. The line was literally (not figuratively) an hour long, and halfway through someone brought the guy behind me a bottle of beer from the food stand. I was going to ask him to get me one, but I remembered that I wasn’t doing that anymore. In hindsight, it would have deadened the price shock of the tickets.
I love karaoke, and headed out the first Tuesday of January to warm up my pipes for my America’s Got Talent audition in February (really! Feb 7 at 0800 in SF). I normally don’t require drinking to get up and sing karaoke, but I usually drink when I do. It would have been nice to have a beer while on stage that night.
The next week was the first of three challenges. Well, four if you count my wife gleefully drinking wine in front of me.
We went out for Salsa dancing and hanging out with friends. I’m not a big fan of dancing and usually have a drink or ten to take the edge off. I made it through the night with only a sip of alcohol, but that was to confirm that the disastrous drink the clueless bartender concocted was indeed “nasty”.
|It's better than no beer at all...|
Finally, that night, my wife’s month-long burlesque class culminated in a spectacular on-stage performance downtown. We went out afterwards for sushi, then karaoke to celebrate. It was tempting to order something during and after the show, but I stuck with a coke. I did have a tiny sip of a hazelnut stout I bought for the wife, but that was just to see what it tasted like (confirmed: yummy).
Week 3 was relatively void of temptation. There was one evening where I was a little stressed out about various things, and would have loved to have a glass of wine, but it was other-wise uneventful. I didn’t even bother with the non-alcoholic beer for the AFC/NFC Championship games, which probably was why Green Bay lost.
|Definitely worth falling off the wagon for.|
I had intended on ending Drynuary a little early on the 24th. I needed to pick up wine from my wine club, and it would be criminal to drive all the way down to Scott Harvey winery and not do a tasting. Additionally, I felt I had proved my point, and I didn’t notice any difference since I started abstaining. Instead, Drynuary ended on January 19 at 6:18 PM. A friend of mine was heading up Karaoke at anew location and a group of us went out for support. The bar sales were being watched during this trial run, so I decided to support her ended the experiment with a couple of pints of Great White beer.
Even though it ended short of its goal, I gained a lot of valuable information from my experiment. I had no noticeable weight loss. I experienced zero health benefits. I didn’t feel any better or worse, nor was I more or less tired during the day. I confirmed that I was not an alcoholic. While I occasionally desired a drink, I was fine without it.
My wallet did benefit from Drynuary, but not quite as much as you’d think. At many places, a diet coke is almost as much as a glass of beer (and I think that’s a disservice to designated drivers everywhere).
I did notice that there were several situations where I’ve conditioned myself to associate with alcohol, particularly going out, karaoke, and football.
I’m proud of myself for doing it, despite it accomplishing very little. I would have liked to stuck it out until the Super Bowl (Feb 1), but I felt there was no further reason to continue. All in all, giving up caffeine for a week was far harder than giving up alcohol for three. That was not a pretty sight…